Canada West playoff hit full swing this afternoon in Vancouver in a rematch of last season’s Manitoba/UBC series that Bisons took in two straight, somewhat-shocking games. Note the starting time of this afternoon’s game: 4 PM PT/7 PM ET at War Memorial in Vancouver. Regina is at Lethbridge tonight also beginning at 7 PM PT/9 PM ET.
On Friday afternoon, CW top-ranked Alberta Golden Bears face UNBC Timberwolves while later on Friday Calgary Dinos host Saskatchewan.
All series are “Best-of-3”.
#7 Manitoba at #3 UBC… A rematch of last season’s major upset when Bisons swept T-Birds right in War Memorial. UBC is deep, talented, has veteran guards led by 6’2″ Phil Jalalpoor (17.7 ppg) and arguably a Moser candidate in 6’9″ Conor Morgan. Bisons have pushed through an injury-riddled season but have lost their best veteran post player in 6’7″ Joey Nitychoruk (shoulder) although Manitoba did received a solid game from 6’6″ Cameron O’Hara in their “play-in” round victory over Brandon this past Friday night. 6’3″ Justus Alleyn is a First Team Canada West All-Star candidate and, frankly, it will take a herculean effort from the fifth-year wing plus 6’7″ James Wagner and 6’1″ point guard Rashawn Browne for Manitoba to pull the upset. The teams did not meet in the regular season and in games against common opponents, T-Birds are 11-1 against just 7-5 for ‘toba. Most recent comparable is likely UVic, which UBC dominated on the final weekend of the season winning by 26 in Victoria and then by 41 at home. Vikes had swept Manitoba in Winnipeg in mid-January although Wagner was still out with an injury (he has since returned) and Nitychoruk was lost for the season with a shoulder injury just 6 minutes into the first game against the Vikes. First game of the series is 4 PM PT/7 PM ET on Thursday.
#5 Regina at #4 Lethbridge… Cougars come into the series with the confidence of handing the Pronghorns their first two losses of the Canada West regular season prior to the Holidays after Lethbridge began the season at 8-0 and garnered U-Sports Top 10 votes. Regina is well balanced with six players averaging between 9 and 14 points per game with an athletic group that lacks a formidable presence inside and thus plays to their strengths. Playing at home, Cougars forced 25 Horns turnovers to claim a two point win on the first night and bounced back for the sweep as 6’4″ Brian Ofori was the star with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Key to Lethbridge is the health of 6’1″ Dejon Burdeaux who missed virtually the entire second half of the regular season but did return to play sparingly on the final weekend of the season against Alberta. 6’8″ Zac Overwater has evolved into an all-conference type capable of carrying the Horns: witness his 49 point effort in Lethbridge’s exciting home OT victory against UBC plus 29 vs. Calgary, 25 vs. Manitoba, 24 vs. Alberta and two other 30+ point games at Thompson Rivers and vs. Fraser Valley. First game is 7 PM MT/9 PM ET on Thursday.
#11 UNBC at #1 Alberta… Golden Bears have but one loss all season and host the upstart Timberwolves in the first game of the season between the two teams that did not meet in the regular season. UNBC comes off a gutty win at Winnipeg last weekend in the “play-in” round. In common opponents, Bears are 11-1 against just 7-5 for UNBC however the Timberwolves are rounding into form with 6’5″ Jovan Leamy helping to lead the way. First game is 3 PM MT/5 PM ET on Friday. Edmonton Examiner provides a quick recap of Golden Bears season and a game preview.
#8 Saskatchewan at #2 Calgary… Two long-time rivals meet at the Jack for the first time this season; Dinos swept Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in early December winning easily 92-77 on the first night and then getting 33 points from 6’6″ Mambi Diawara to pull away 77-68 after the game was tied with about 9 minutes left. Huskies did not have 6’2″ J.T. Robinson in the lineup for those games however the status of 6’6″ Joseph Barker for Friday’s game is also uncertain after the impact forward was injured two weeks ago. First game is 8 PM MT/10 PM ET on Friday.